As discussed in greater detail in our article discussing mediation in Georgia divorce, mediation is an alternative to trial where a neutral third party, known as a mediator, facilitates settlement between the parties by focusing the parties’ attention on their relative needs and interests instead of their conflicting positions. Mediator’s do not have the authority to force the parties into settlement or make any decisions, but may only guide the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable settlement.
The collaborative divorce process is a relatively new approach to resolving divorce issues. Like mediation, the goal of collaborative divorce is for the parties to reach an agreement or settlement without court intervention. If parties to a divorce decide to engage in the collaborative divorce process, both parties, along with their respective attorneys, agree to work together to craft a mutually agreeable solution to all fours issues presented during divorce. Collaborative divorce is based on a team effort, where the parties and attorneys, along with other divorce related professionals, such as accountants and therapists, work together to determine what outcome would best serve the best interest of the entire family.
Although both mediation and collaborative divorce have the same ultimate goal, allowing the parties the freedom to craft the solution best suited for their situation without the intervention of the court, there are differences in these two approaches to divorce. First, mediation involves the presence of a third party mediator who directs negotiation between the parties, or their attorneys. Collaborative divorce on the other hand, there are generally only four people involved in each meeting, both parties and their attorneys. During collaborative divorce, the parties engage with each other, not through a mediator, to resolve their issues. Second, collaborative divorce involves an agreement between the parties and their attorneys, where all involved agree to seek a resolution without the intervention of the court, and before initiating the formal divorce process. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the attorneys involved in the collaborative process agree not to represent the parties during any subsequent divorce litigation. On the other hand, mediation does not require such an agreement. Finally, unlike collaborative divorce, parties may engage in mediation either prior to or during the formal divorce process. However, the collaborative divorce process requires the parties to come to a final agreement before initiating the formal divorce process.